Three women, each with their own perspective on life, embark on their respective emotional journeys, triggered by the arrival of a baby. Partners Kate (Kathryn Bond) and Liv (Gemma Lawrence) make the decision to purchase a house by the beach when Kate announces that she is pregnant. While Kate is overjoyed by the pregnancy, she is far less enthused by both Liv’s proposal and the house she fell in love with; a rundown property requiring significant renovation. Jenny (Gemma Barnett), Kate’s sister, while happy for the arrival of the baby, also cannot stay away from Liv, whom she had immediate chemistry with at a previous party.
Kate appears to be the most transparent character, preferring structure and work over the uncertainty brought about by the baby, potentially implying postpartum depression. Although her potential coping mechanism could explain away her actions, it is no less maddening to see her leaving their baby in the care of Liv on a daily basis. Liv, a song writer and perhaps more used to how unpredictable life is, takes on the main parental duty. The fact that she is unable to then focus on her writing can be attributed to the immense responsibilities placed on her and also the lack of affection from Kate. It is precisely in this vulnerable moment that Liv becomes temporarily attracted to Jenny. Intimacy coordinator Lou Kempton brilliantly choreographs the intimacy between Liv and Jenny, showing not only the connection, but also the guilt and hesitation in their movements. Kate and Liv’s characters remain consistent throughout the play, further highlighting the change undergone by Jenny. Barnett brilliantly portrays Jenny as first appearing spontaneous, then later as a person that recognises the joy of pregnancy.
You would expect an event such as the arrival of a baby to turn the characters’ lives upside down. In addition to the sleepless nights, it could have been useful to more explicitly explore the characters’ inner psyche. At the end, when it is revealed why Jenny and Kate met up earlier in the story, the conflicts between the pair appear to be side-lined compared to the growing turmoil in Kate and Liv’s relationship.
There are strengths and weaknesses in Cara Evans’ set design. The overhead lighting sets the mood and effectively used to show the change in weather and fireworks. Dripping sounds are played from within the bucket in one corner, to showcase the water coming through the roof. At times of confrontation, this dripping becomes louder and more frequent, highlighting that just like the hole in the roof, there is a gaping chasm in the couple’s relationship. However, given how rundown the house is meant to be, it would have been more appropriate to have a paler grey like colour palette for the floor instead of a shiny oak finish to reflect this.
The story is a welcomed narrative on pregnancy and childbirth, recognising both the joy and challenges that accompany such a change. However, despite the fact that this story brings the struggle of womanhood and motherhood into the spotlight, it lacks sufficient build up to balance the conflicts between the three women, ultimately resulting in a less than impactful ending.
Written by: Jo Harper
Directed by: Bethany Pitts
Produced by: Grace Nelder and Lucas A Ferrara
The Beach House plays at Park Theatre until 11 March. Further information and bookings can be found here.